Category: New Life Church (page 3 of 10)

How Many Weekends Should a Pastor Preach?

How many times do you expect your pastor to speak on the weekends at your church? I am assuming your pastor gets to take some time off for vacation and rest, but is he supposed to be in the pulpit each of the other Sundays?

When I became the pastor here at New Life, I asked my mentors, who were also pastors of churches, what was a reasonable expectation, considering all of the other resposibilities that go with the vocation and calling of pastor. I also asked my elders to weigh in. We all decided that I should teach at least 36-38 Sundays. For the past five years, I have done just that.

Typically, I am here at my church for long stretches in Janauary and February, during the Easter season, in September and October and always at Christmas. Those are priority times for the lead pastor, in my opinion. If I am invited to speak at other places, I schedule those trips away from the busy seasons so I can focus my attention at home.

I try to take time off during the summer months and during holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. These are times I give my staff the pulpit. They are all great communicators and the church needs to hear their voices. I also try to schedule our Overseers to speak at least once a year so our church can hear from the men who give us counsel.

So far, this has been a healthy rhythm for me and for New Life. I have space once a month to read, study and decompress from the weekly schedule of sermon prep. It also gives me space to focus during the week on being a pastor to the people in our congregation and allows more time at work for key meetings. It makes the Sundays I am here much better and it keeps me far from the cliff of burnout.

What do you expect from your pastor? Are our expectations and demands actually harming the pastors we love so much? Will you come to church if “someone else” is preaching? Let the conversation begin.

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The Night I Attended Church Again

Most pastors I know do not attend church. I just started back, myself. We are almost always in church on the weekends but we are there primarily to minister to others, which leaves little room for receiving ministry ourselves. Thus, it’s possible for a pastor to be caught up in perpetual church activities and still be spiritually dry or even burned out.

Last night, I attended church. I went to our Sunday night prayer meeting with my two kids and sat on the back row. Yes, I was that person. I never went on the stage, did not ask the pastor who was leading any questions and even took notes from his message. It was great to attend church again.

I had plenty of good excuses not to go. I had preached twice that morning, prayed for people before and after both gatherings, and greeted new guests for almost an hour after the last service. I was tired and the Olympics were on TV. No one would have been upset if I had stayed home. I am grateful I did not.

All of us need the fellowship of believers, even pastors. Especially pastors. When was the last time you attended church? If it has been awhile, let me invite you to come back, to sit, and to receive, like everyone else.

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The Birth of a Sermon

Sundays come around with an alarming regularity. That is the truth. For most pastors, the most discouraging day of the week is Monday when they realize they must craft another sermon for the following weekend. Thankfully, for me, I have discovered a rhythm of study and preparation that takes a lot of the weight off me.

My study week begins on Monday when I read through the text for the following Sunday. My goal on Monday is to read the text as if it were my first time. I hope to read and hear these sacred and ancient stories with new eyes and hears and not with the senses of someone who already knows the details and ending of every story. I believe the Scriptures are continuously articulate and all of us can hear and understand if we are listening.

Tuesday morning, I meet with a small study team that helps me explore the differing theological viewpoints of the text. We challenge each other and talk about different commentaries written by scholars like NT Wright, John Stott, William Willimon, Lloyd Ogilvie, among others. This meeting launches me into my morning of study and prayer that wraps up around noon.

After more study and prayer on Wednesday, I try to have a rough outline ready for a late morning meeting with a sermon prep team that is made up of a diverse group including men, women, young and experienced. At the beginning of the meeting, we pray and then I try to give the big ideas of the message in 5-10 minutes. After I finish, there are three rules:

1. They can give me any feedback they want. I would rather hear that the sermon is off base on Wednesday than on Sunday afternoon.

2. I do not have to take any of their advice. I would, of course, be foolish not to listen and consider all of it, though.

3. If I do take their input, they get no public credit from the stage on Sunday. I tell them their reward will be in heaven.

A meeting like this requires that pastors get over a great deal of insecurities and really allow for honest conversations that will only help us communicate to a multi-generational audience more clearly.

Thursday mornings are set aside for more study and prayer, with the goal of having a mostly finished outline by noon that I can submit to our team. I love that I still have two days for the message to simmer like a good stew. Hopefully, when Sunday arrives, the message is a good meal.

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What I Learned from a Fire

The most destructive fire in the history of Colorado is still burning as I write this post. Thankfully, our valiant fire fighters have most of it contained and many homes that were once threatened with devastation are now safe.

Last week, I watched in awe as gale force winds drove the flames over a ridge, through a canyon and into several neighborhoods across the freeway from our church. Lives were lost, over 350 homes were consumed, and people’s live were spun into chaos. As we scrambled as a church to meet the needs in our city, I learned some important truths.

1. People had already made up their minds to serve

Before I made any appeals, the church community in our city had already mobilized on numerous fronts. People immediately opened their homes to evacuees, taking the pressure off the local shelters. Food banks recieved record donations, animals were transferred to safer pastures, and the fire fighters were inundated with supplies to make their monumental task more bearable. People were not waiting around for me, they were already in action as soon as the needs were known.

2. The big church can be a big family

One of the first things we did as a church staff was to contact people and families in the affected areas. To our surprise, almost all of them had found homes with family or friends, many of them New Lifers taking in other New Lifers. The big church had become a big, welcoming family. Later in the week, we received tractor-trailer loads of food and much needed supplies from Thomas Road Baptist Church and Gleaning for the World. They sent it to us because that is what church families do for one another.

3. Joy can come out of the ashes

This past Sunday, a CNN reporter asked me before the morning services what I expected the mood to be in the New Life gatherings that day. I told them there would many people mourning the loss of their homes and there would be widespread concern for the fire fighters safety. But, I told the reporter there would also be a lot of joy as we worshipped together. I was right. There were those mourning and all of us were concerned, but there was joy amidst it all because we have overcome so much in the past and we were convinced of God’s faithfulness in the days ahead. Joy can come from ashes, and it did.

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Conflict Resolution 101

 

An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. – Proverbs 18:19

Some of the best work our enemy does is an inside job. Christians tend to rally around one another when there is an outside attack or threat, but it seems we do not fare so well when the battle is amongst us. Where two or more people are gathered, trying to live life together, there is bound to be tension, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, poor communication, and what we call in the South, fussing.

But we can do better. We must do better. Here are some practical reminders to begin the journey of healing broken relationships and restoring the unity that is so critical for all of us.

1. Emails are the worst.

Please do not pound out a lengthy email and fire away at your assumed adversary. 80% of communication is non-verbal and your emotions and intent cannot be determined by reading words on a screen. What you meant and what is read are usually two different things. Trust me on this.

2. Talk when you are rested

Make sure you are not tired when you confront someone. For those of you with small children, this may mean about you have about a 30-second window for dialogue each day. Seriously, though, a good nights sleep always changes your perspective for the better and allows for those frothy emotions to simmer and settle a bit.

3. Leave room for enlightenment

I know this is a long shot, but could there be a slim chance you are the one who is wrong? I know you won’t believe me, but there was this one time, I was wrong and did not know it. Okay, actually, it is pretty common for me and probably for you, too. We can learn from every disagreement and sometimes, being “right” is not as important as we think. Relationships are hard to get and easy to lose.

4. Pray for God’s eyes

If we cannot see or imagine anything of worth in the other person, we are not seeing them as God does. Most of the time, people are hurtful and angry at us because of a wound that happened in their lives long before we met them. Give them grace and space. God is at work in them whether we can see it or not.

5. Ignoring it will not help

Half the world’s population are introverts and usually get stomach pains when reading these kind of blogs. Conflict is something they tend to avoid like left over sushi in the fridge. But, the Scriptures are clear, we must go to our brother if we know there is something wrong in the relationship. Avoid passive aggressive behaviors like blog posts, facebook rants and phone calls to your “prayer” partner. Follow the above steps and then initiate a meeting. The meeting should be face to face if possible, but a phone call to someone a distance away is also good. Use Skype or facetime so you can see each other.

Unity is a powerful force. With it, we can do most anything. Without it, we are defeated. Relationships are worth the struggle. In fact, most sincere, long time friendships were forged after two mature people decided to talk to one another instead of hide from one another.

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Pop Quiz – How Well do you Know New Life?

As a former high school teacher, I love to give pop quizzes. From time to time, I give one to our staff to test them on how much they know about the church where they work. The results are always very surprising and reminds us that we have to communicate clearly and constantly, especially since we are a part of a large and growing church family.

Take the quiz below and see how many you can answer without looking at your computer for help. And no peeking at your neighbor’s quiz, either. I am watching!

 

1.       What is the title song for the new Desperation Band album?

             Answer: Center of it All

2.       What are the Sunday morning service times at our Downtown campus?

Answer: 9am and 11am 

3.       How many years have we had the Desperation Conferences?

            Answer: 10 years

4.       Who leads our children’s worship choir?

           Answer: Amanda Ferrin

5.       In the recent Legends and Misfits sermon series, which one of these three WAS NOT discussed?

a.       Daniel – Answer

b.      Nehemiah

c.       Moses

 

6.       As part of our mission statement, what three words do we use to communicate our goals for each New Lifer?

            Answer: Worship, Connect, Serve

7.       Freely Give and Freely Receive is this weekend. What local inner city ministry are we partnering with for this ministry event?

Answer: Springs Rescue Mission 

8.       Pastor Brian Newberg’s daughter, Tami, just married a man from what country?

           Answer: Egypt

9.       We opened our first Dream Center last July. What is its ministry function? What happens there?

           Answer: It is a medical clinic for women

10.   Approximately, how much debt have we paid off to date through Move the Mountain?

Answer: $1.3 million

Bonus:

Name the three US cities where we have planted churches in the past four years?

Denver, Austin, Tx, and Fort Collins

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#TheirNamesAre

Everyone has a name that is personal and a story that is important. To remember their name and to hear their story shows respect and communicates value. At New Life, names and stories matter and that is why you will see a lot of Twitter and Facebook posts using the hashtag #TheirNamesAre

Social media is a great tool for celebrating the many people we meet each week through the ministries of our church. You are invited to join us, following a few simple guidelines. First, don’t publicly share any embarrassing or personal information that should be kept private. Second, it is a probably a good idea to ask them permission to post their story or info if you are unsure.

So, starting this weekend, introduce yourselves to some new people, ask their names and listen to their stories. These “chance” meetings might be the highlight of your worship this week and may open the door for new friendships and ministry.

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Great Guests with Good Manners

From time to time, I get the honor of speaking at other churches and frequently I have guest speakers at New Life. Over the years, I have seen a few guests with some terrible manners while most, thankfully, had great habits. These are my six rules for being a great guest with good manners.

1. Finish on time.

This is a big one, especially for those of us who have multiple services in a day. Ask the pastor when he wants the microphone back and make sure he gets it earlier than requested. It is good manners.

2. Dress for the culture

I always ask how the pastor dresses at his church and try to dress similarly. As long as it’s not an 8-button suit with a mustard colored shirt and purple tie, I can normally blend in pretty well.

3. Don’t purposely create any messes

It is certainly ok to bring strong and challenging messages as the guest speaker, but I will be gone on Monday and they have to live there and return all the emails and phone calls. I call them the “blow in, blow up and blow out” guest speakers. I am there to add to what God is doing, so I usually don’t tackle topics that are best taught by the pastor who lives among them.

4. Let others sell your stuff

Trust me, there is nothing more nauseating than someone pitching their stuff when they should be teaching the Scriptures. I actually had a guest once who demanded that he pitch his book because he said he sold more that way. He has never been invited back, which brings me to number five …

5. Don’t make any demands

Go to be a blessing and love and shepherd them the way their pastors do each week.  Where I stay, the amount of the honorarium or what brand of bottled water I prefer is inconsequential when compared to the people hearing the message. I do not have guests who make ridiculous demands. Period.

6. Learn from their team

One of the joys of getting to visit other churches is the inside access you get to their staff and volunteers. Ask them questions, spend some time and learn from them. In fact, most of my good ideas have been stolen over lunch after speaking somewhere. I feel better now that I have confessed.

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Patient with People

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

At a recent lunch, a man was trying to convince me he was called to be a pastor. I asked him if he enjoyed helping people and he told me he did as they long as they were willing to work at the problem. I told him he was probably called to be a counselor and not a pastor. I explained to him that pastors are called to walk with people whether they are on board with the process or not.

This past weekend we celebrated the resurrection and I was reminded once again that Jesus did not die on the cross because we were finally ready for him to help us. In fact, Jesus came looking for us long before we even knew we needed redemption. Jesus was working in us and around us, with great patience, even when we were less than cooperative.

The passage from Ephesians that I quoted above mentions humility, gentleness and patience, but the word that is most troublesome is the word “bearing”, which means to “endure through suffering.”  Sometimes the people we are called to love and pastor are not ready to make right choices, or to meet with us for counsel. They may not even care about the consequences of their choices. Are we then supposed to move on to the next person and discard the one who is not ready for our help?

A counselor might have every right to make that call, but a pastor cannnot. We must love them, while not enabling them. We must pray for their eyes to be opened, and stand alongside them. We should certainly not allow them to abuse us or others, but waiting and praying for God’s work to be completed in their lives is a chore and a privilege that comes with the calling of pastor.

But, for how long?

As long as it takes. Patience is simply hopeful waiting and there is no expiration date for hope. Our church is full of people who were called out of the darkness into the light. That is my story and I suspect it is your story. Somewhere in that journey, we can all point to people who did not give up on us and we are certainly thankful for Jesus who patiently pursued us.

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10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me 15 Years Ago

This is what I taught today to our New Life staff. It is a list of things I wish I had known when I started on this journey as pastor. This would have saved me a lot of pain, for sure. Read my list and then add some of your own.

1. Sheep bites can’t kill me, but the gnawing will make life miserable a few days each year.

2. No matter how hard I try, I will always be tempted to measure my success by attendance numbers.

3. The best thing I can do to build and grow God’s kingdom is to be myself and not compare myself to others.

4. It takes a long time to become old friends so nurture and cherish the old friendships God has given me.

5. I will only have as much spiritual authority as I am willing to submit to myself. Independence will destroy me but there is power in submission.

6. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Challenge people to go deeper even when the message is unpopular.

7. My brain will always feel like scrambled eggs on Sunday afternoon so don’t make any major decisions until Tuesday morning.

8. Some people will only trust you after a really long time of proving yourself and another group will never trust you no matter what you do.

9. Don’t feel guilty about taking a Sabbath. It was not a suggestion.

10. I will never regret spending time with my family instead of saying yes to a church meeting that someone else could lead.

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